Curzon’s superior generosity and nobility

Old building in Calcutta of the Asiatick Society (1784-1925), the Asiatic Society (1825-32), the Asiatic Society of Bengal (1832-1936), the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal (1936-52), the Asiatic Society (1952-present)

Old building — there are also newer premises — in Calcutta of the Asiatick Society (1784-1825), the Asiatic Society (1825-32), the Asiatic Society of Bengal (1832-1936), the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal (1936-51), the Asiatic Society (1951-present)

Dalrymple quotes from a speech the late great viceroy delivered to the the Asiatic Society of Bengal on the government’s obligation to preserve monuments of historical and artistic significance:

India is covered with the visible records of vanished dynasties, of forgotten monarchs, of persecuted and sometimes dishonoured creeds….If there be any one who says to me that there is no duty devolving upon a Christian government to preserve the monuments of a pagan art or the sanctuaries of an alien faith, I cannot pause to argue with such a man. Art and beauty, and the reverence that is owing to all that has evoked human genius or has inspired human faith, are independent of creeds, and, in so far as they touch the sphere of religion, are embraced by the common religion of all mankind.

George Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston as he was to be

Balliol man George Nathaniel Curzon, or Marquess Curzon as he was to become

Viewed from this standpoint, Curzon stated,

the rock temple of the Brahmans stands on precisely the same footing as the Buddhist vihara, and the Mahomedan musjid as the Christian cathedral. There is no principle of artistic discrimination between the mausoleum of the despot and he sepulchre of the saint. What is beautiful, what is historic, what tears the mask off the face of the past and helps us to read its riddles and to look it in the eyes — these, and not the dogmas of a combative theology, are the principal criteria to which we must look….To us the relics of Hindu, and Mahomedan, of Buddhist, Brahmin, and Jain are…equally interesting and equally sacred. Each represents the glories or the faith of a branch of the human family.

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